Review by PUhler
""I want to ask you something. It's about that day." "Oh, the day the rivers ran red and this turd of a 'game' was foisted upon us?""
I fear my writing of this review will jeopradize my well-being. You see, I'm a well-known Shenmue hater. I usually keep it on the boards though, where people can just flame me and get on with their lives. I don't think anyone expected me to hammer out a review of it, so everyone can see the fecal matter that is known as Shenmue. So they can see it's real colors. Yep, Shenmue is horrible, no doubt about it. Well, allow me to zip up my absestos suit, and we'll begin...
''A Public Service Announcement... with GUITARS!''
First of all, I do not dislike games based on popularity level, contrary to popular belief. It seems some people think I dislike games if they're popular... untrue. If that was so, I guess Final Fantasy 7 and Soul Calibur aren't popular at all, cause they happen to be among my favorite games ever. Disliking a game because it's popular is almost as bad as liking a game cause it's popular.
After hearing about how I didn't enjoy MGS, the whispers started. Then after Mario 64, some people began voicing their opinions. After I blasted Shenmue, me and my credibility were sent packin'.
Well that's fine. Just because I think Shenmue is a perfect example of a over-hyped stinker doesn't make it so. It also shouldn't give you people delusional thoughts of me hating it cause I was trying to 'rebel dude!'. I don't hate ames based on popularity... period. Keep that in mind while reading this review.
''Havn't I seen you somewhere before?''
That's in reference to the absolute B-Movie shlock that Shenmue passes on you for a story. Father gets killed, son looks to avenge his death. Coupled with the laughable voice-acting, it makes Shenmue seem like a horrible kung-fu flick gone wrong. Considering Shenmue is technically a rpg, it really gets hurt by it's story (or lack of it).
''If a game can top the visuals in Shenmue anytime soon, I'll eat my imaginary hat.''
Aesthetically, Shenmue is absolutely, positively a visual spectacle the likes of which the world has never seen. The burning textures, amazing character and facial models, and fluid animation will simply stupify you when you first take it all in. It's that good.
All is not rosy in this area, however. Shenmue is sometimes seemingly over-loaded with 'jaggies' all over the place. It's a relatively minor eye-sore, but one nonetheless. All the DC fanboys were quick to jump on the PS2's aliasing issues, so why didn't I hear anything about that here? Was it because they truly thought the game was invincible, and if they even admitted to one small flaw that the game would be tainted? Let me look into my Magic-8 Ball.... all signs point to yes.
Regardless of the jaggies, occasional slow-down (when too many things are on the screen at once) and pop-in (but that one was needed for a game of this graphical magnitude), Shenmue is undeniably a fabulously detailed literal work of art.
''More boring then real life...''
Yu Suzuki first proclaimed Shenmue a F.R.E.E. game. Well, little known to the gaming press, F.R.E.E. stood for Frequently Removes Eny Entertainment (ok, that Eny was cheap, but I take what I can get). Simple put, Shenmue is a excersise in tedium that can only be matched by the tedium master, Xenogears.
You see, in Shenmue, you're basically allowed to roam around, and do whatever you want. It's too bad that by Shenmue's definition of whatever you want is ''Partake in incredibly stunted conversations and wander aimlessly.'' Many people find this fun, but how? How can it be fun? Most of the people are of no use, and the whole thing reeks of tedium. Find him, find her, look around, find someone else, get to Disc 2 and throw up; goto Disc 3 and swallow a bottle of pills.
Hell, even the few battles that can be found in Shenmue aren't any fun. They just basically invole pounding some buttons, and hardly require any skill. Of course, there's the Dragon Lair-esque QTE's, which are basically short little cinematic battles and such which you control by hitting the appropriate button at the right moment. It's funner then it sounds, but that ain't sayin much.
''A shattered illusion...''
A boring game is bad, but it can sometimes be redeemed. If Shenmue actually convinced me I was living the life of Ryo Hazuki, I just might have granted it some leeway. Unfortunetly, it doesn't. I'm not going to go into some hyper-anal rant, but there is one thing that reall irks me besides the obvious gameplay issues.
It's like this: there are times when the most unbelievable things happen in such a 'real' world. For example, many times the same sequence will repeat over and over again, regardless if Ryo has triggered it before. Sometimes people will completely forget who Ryo is, as will he, when you'll be screaming at the TV ''I already met you scumbag!!!''. It really damaged the illusion this is a living breathing world. Imagine if in FF7 the same CG sequence started each time you trigger the event. That'd just be terrible. Oh, but since it's SHENMUE the DC fanboys are willing to overlook that...
''A shining star... to an extent''
The lone saving grace of Shenmue is the soundtrack (and the arcade... to an extent). I just think it's just about the most fitting compositon of a musical score that I've ever heard. Not best, but most fitting. The sound effects are good too. This area would score big with me if it weren't for the pathetic voice actors. Some of them are so bad I wouldn't be adverse to dragging them out of their homes and having them shot in front of a crowd of onlookers. It's that bad. When will the people dubbing these games get it right...?
Well, if you've managed to make it through this mess of a review, you know what it felt like for me to wend through this mess of a game. Shenmue is a complete and utter disappointment. I certainly hope other games don't try to follow in it's foot-steps; who knows how bad a copy-cat Shenmue could be...
I'm not trying to be funny, but that really is the best description I can think of for this hellish exercise in brutal tedium (what, you think I was gonna miss a chance to use brutal?). I'll go play some more Gunbird 2, thank you. I'm into REAL games, not over-hyped kung-fu movies with plots ripped straight out of a B-Movie. Avoid Shenmue at all costs, and don't say I didn't warn you.
Reviewer's Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Originally Posted: 12/27/00, Updated 01/11/01
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